In recent days, cities and towns across Morocco have witnessed mass youth movements involving students and unemployed university graduates. Like all serious and deeply-rooted movements, it was marked by mass participation of young women, who stood at the forefront and brought with them high levels of militancy. The movement has been received with warm sympathy by all layers of the poor, not only because its demands are legitimate, but because the masses are angry and looking for a point of reference to rally around.
This movement is a testament to the tumult and instability in Moroccan society, in which the ruling class is trying to hold things together through repression, and by leaning on the reformists and conservative trade union leaders. As Trotsky once wrote:
“The revolutionary or semi-revolutionary activities of the students mean that bourgeois society is passing through a deep crisis.” (Leon Trotsky, The Problems of the Spanish Revolution)
The latest movement erupted in protest at the Minister of Education’s decision to lay down a host of regressive conditions on those wishing to apply to take the test required to become a teacher in the public sector. The most significant of these was the establishment of an employment age ceiling of 30 years old. Furthermore, teachers from the private sector (whose pay is lower) were prevented from participating, except where their employers give their consent, as if teachers are the slaves of their bosses.
Demanding a high 12.5 mark as a prerequisite for applying to become a teacher in the public sector further serves the private sector education mafia, who manipulate scores and inflate grades to attract higher-paying students. The new rules barring teachers in the private sector from applying to work in the public sector recall the era of serfdom, where the feudal lord decided the fate of those who work in his fiefdom, obliging them to seek his consent before making any decision.
These new measures also reflect a narrow-minded technocratic ‘solution’ to the crisis-ridden pension funds, by excluding older teachers approaching retirement age from applying. Rather than creating new jobs to meet the growing need for teachers, doctors and nurses across society, the state is cutting back on the number of jobs it creates in order to save money. Newly created positions are currently not even replacing those lost due to retirement or death.
On top of this, we must note that the crisis in the pension funds is also the result of looting by the king, and the companies owned by his friends. It has been exacerbated by the refusal of successive governments to pay into these funds, as well by the corrupt administrations plundering them.
The latest struggle is the largest and most expansive since the 20 February Movement, which erupted after 20 February 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring. It has now extended to all the major cities, particularly those that include universities (Tangiers, Tetouan, Oujda, Casablanca, Fez, Rabat, Safi, Agadir, Marrakesh, Meknes, etc.) This shows, once again, the capacity for struggle and the desire for change among the youth of the toiling classes.
Although the immediate cause of this movement is a ministerial decision, there are many far-reaching factors that have pushed the masses, and especially the youth, onto the road of struggle.
The crisis was deep even before the pandemic, which has exacerbated it. In the course of 2020 alone, economic growth fell by more than 7 percent, and the poverty rate reached 11.7 percent. The criminal manner in which the ruling class handled the pandemic made the conditions of the masses more difficult than ever. The full weight of the crisis was thrown on the shoulders of the workers through mass layoffs and rising prices, while every assistance was granted to the capitalists, including exemptions from taxes and the withdrawal of anti-corruption laws. This enabled a minority of parasites, headed by the king, his family and the other big capitalists, to accumulate even more enormous fortunes.
For instance, the wealth of the family of current Prime Minister and close friend of the king, Aziz Akhannouch, has increased by nearly 25 billion dirhams (over $2.7 billion USD) since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to Oxfam. Forbes magazine also confirmed that – despite the difficulties of the last year – Akhannouch’s personal fortune “suddenly” leapt by $900 million USD from April 2020 to May 2021, bringing his net worth to $1.9 billion.
As Marx explained: “The accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole.” This is nowhere clearer than in Morocco today.
In the same period, according to the High Commission for Planning, the unemployment rate rose to a high of 12.7 percent, before declining more recently to 11.8 percent. But it has reached a figure of 31 percent among young people aged between 15 and 24 years, 18.7 percent among young people with degrees, and 16.5 percent among women. All the while, a large proportion of those in employment continue to toil under harsh conditions. According to the same commission, the number of underemployed people (including those working below their qualification and with insufficient income) exceeded one million nationally.
There have also been significant price rises, which aren’t reflected in official figures but felt keenly by the masses. According to the High Commission for Planning, increases in the price of basic foodstuffs between September and October 2021 amounted to 4.7 percent for vegetables, 2.7 percent for meat, 1.4 percent for fish and seafood; 1 percent for cooking oils, and 0.7 percent for milk, cheese, eggs, coffee and tea. The same trend can be observed for other essentials – especially fuels, the price of which increased by 3.2 percent. Meanwhile, public transport registered a 6.2 percent price rise.
In short, the factors that fed into this social explosion go beyond a ministerial decision. They are rooted in the overall national situation. This fact was expressed in the slogans raised by the protesters, which went far beyond the Minister of Education’s decision, denouncing the ruling class and its state for their policies of austerity and repression, as well as endemic corruption.
The slogans of the 20 February Movement were revived, in addition to: “Freedom, Dignity, Social Justice,” and: “This is a corrupt state”. In Morocco, on account of the absence of democratic rights, many youth organise themselves into ‘Ultras’ (soccer team support groups). They are known for raising very radical and even revolutionary songs targeting state repression, poverty, etc. The revolutionary slogans of the soccer Ultras could also be heard at these protests.
The reformists and trade union leaders
The reformist leaders regard this new movement with terror and confusion. They have expressed regret at the actions of the government for threatening “stability”, and criticised the Minister of Education’s “misplaced” decision as “neither constitutional nor legal”! They accuse him of “not taking into account the immediate situation that Morocco is going through on the economic and social level,” and they ask, “has the Minister lost his mind? Doesn’t he see that the situation is fraught with many explosive factors, and that it is safer not to provoke the working class, especially the youth, with decisions like this?”
The reformists are stupid, bankrupt creatures, who truly believe that it is possible to live in a class society without the ruling class carrying out attacks on the working class and poor, especially in a period of deep crisis like the one that capitalism is passing through, both locally and globally. And when they witness such attacks, they turn to the people and say: ‘If the capitalists continue to attack you, you workers and peasants must be reasonable and polite and refrain from responding, in order to preserve the interests of the nation.’ Above all, they value ‘stability’.
But the ruling class, in contrast to the reformists, knows that the class struggle is the determining element in society, and therefore ceaselessly sharpens and improves the effectiveness of its apparatus of repression, prisons, and laws that protect its interests. As a result, these sectors are the only ones that have not suffered budget cuts, and have in fact received even more funding.
Has the minister really lost his mind?
Did the ruling class, and its representative in the person of the Minister of Education, really “lose their minds” and take an unexpected step? Not at all! We should not forget that Benmoussa is a former interior minister and a French agent, with French citizenship, and therefore he has enough sources of information and advisors not to make a random, irrational move.
We believe there are three explanations for the minister taking this step at this particular time:
- The ruling class is faced with a deep crisis of capitalism. It needs to launch attacks against workers in the form of brutal austerity policies, whenever the balance of power permits.
- There is no organised, militant left force capable of leading any resistance, and the union leadership are mere servants of the system. They will not dare to take any step to obstruct these policies. Instead, they will call for calm and attempt to hold the workers back.
- The ruling class know that they are standing on a bubbling volcano that could erupt at any moment, so they seek to anticipate and defuse the coming eruption. They are using the same tactics as firefighters, who, in advance of wildfire season, tend to ignite controlled fires in order to be able to avoid major conflagrations, or at least reduce their intensity and spread. Ignition of controlled fires enables burning of flammable branches and weeds, which gives them an idea of hotspots that may pose a danger, and other necessary data to deal with a large fire when it breaks out. This is exactly what the state is doing today. It is seeking to exhaust the mass movement in separate and isolated battles in order to extinguish them one by one, and to prevent them from being united into a single mass movement.
The representatives of the ruling class are more aware of this situation than the myopic reformist left. The Minister of Justice, Abdel Latif Wehbi, said in a recent press statement: “The upcoming decisions and procedures will cause uproar, and if there is no uproar about this decision, it will happen about another decision.” Thus, they are keen to implement their reactionary policies gradually and absorb the shock of ‘the uproar’ at this procedure, then quell it, before moving on to the other procedure, and so on.
Of course, this does not mean that they are completely in control of the situation. On the contrary, the possibility of the situation slipping out of their control is very high, and this is what frightens the reformists, perhaps even more than the ruling class. Especially since what we are witnessing are ‘spontaneous’ struggles that are outside the control of the bureaucracy of the unions and reformist parties, who are open to bargaining with the ruling class. To limit that danger, they are making sure that the movement has no leadership, nor a point of reference, nor an organisation that unites it. Combined with a certain amount of repression and concessions, this gives the ruling class the best chance of victory over the movement in the end.
The reformist left parties are engaged, consciously or unconsciously, in implementing the capitalists' reactionary policies by engaging in these dispersed battles, only reluctantly and often under pressure from their rank and file, and writing empty statements of solidarity. To make these struggles truly effective, they need to be unified, with the establishment of grassroots democratic organisations in the neighbourhoods, workplaces and universities. These should be linked locally, regionally, and nationally, enabling them to have a programme of transitional demands to rally around. These demands must connect with the workers’ daily struggles, and in turn to the need for the working class to seize power, which is the only serious and lasting solution to the problems of austerity, exploitation, repression and attacks against the living and working conditions of all toiling people in the cities and villages.
Negotiating rather than fighting
The trade union leaders, instead of working to engage in these movements, organise them, and give them slogans and a plan of action; instead of calling for general strikes to paralyse the country to force the ruling class to stop their latest attack, as well as all their other attacks on the workers and poor; all rushed to meet with the Education Minister and persuade him to retract his decision, in order to preserve what they call ‘stability’.
They consider themselves to be sensible and rational. They also consider themselves more capable of protecting the stability of the ruling class system than the representatives of the ruling class themselves, and this is what made them beg the minister to retract the decision. The minister treated them with the contempt they deserve, expressed to them that his decision was final, and bid them farewell without offering even enough to salvage their credibility in front of their rank-and-file members.
What was the response of the union leaders? Have they denounced this insulting reply, and resolved to organise a struggle? Did they call on the working class, especially the workers in the education sector, to engage in battle and launch a general strike until the decision is overturned? Did they give the movement economic and political slogans to broaden its horizons, giving it a clear perspective and correct tactics? No, they simply issued statements in which they recounted what they “said” to the minister, and what the minister “said” to them, as if they were mere journalists or neutral observers. Or rather, as though they were his errand boys, tasked with conveying his messages, not trade union leaders with any stake or opinion on this matter.
These ladies and gentlemen have lost all connection with the struggle, they even see it as a danger, and their task has become to provide free advice to the representatives of the ruling class about the best way to preserve the status quo and avoid a flare-up of the situation.
They fear the masses more than they fear the successive attacks against the working class. They never fight back, no matter how severe the attacks are, but they quickly wake up when they are faced with a reaction from the masses: not to give a fighting expression to those struggles, but to curb them and ensure they stay within safe channels for the ruling class.
These leaders have become an absolute brake, they have lost all legitimacy and must be purged from the trade union movement as a necessary precondition for any successful struggle.
In order to defeat the government, the working class must build for a general strike capable of paralysing the country and forcing the ruling class to its knees. But the working class is still not yet able to do this. Its forces are shackled by a reactionary union bureaucracy integrated with the state apparatus, and they have not yet fully recovered from the shock of the pandemic, which resulted in a terrible rise in unemployment and tragic loss of life. Thus, it is natural that the youth, the students and the unemployed are on the front lines against austerity policies and attacks.
We Marxists support these struggles, and we call on the working class to engage in them resolutely and sincerely. We also call on the youth to organise themselves in democratic organisations locally, regionally and nationally. These should send delegates to every working-class neighborhood, factory, university and school, so that their fight becomes the cause of all the toilers. This is the route to victory.
The current struggles, regardless of the final outcome, are harbingers of the revolutionary events to come. They are evidence that bourgeois society is going through a deep crisis, and it is also evidence of the great fighting potential of the youth. This is the source of our optimism and confidence in the final victory.
We call upon the revolutionary youth, those who really want to break the vicious cycle of defeat through attrition due to the absence of leadership and organisation, to join the Marxists in order to build the revolutionary leadership of the working class. We need a radical political programme that can draw all the mass movements across Morocco into a unified campaign, which will ultimately lead to a fight to overthrow the reactionary bourgeois state and the capitalist system it defends. This will lay the basis for the building of a socialist society. This is the project that we, the International Marxist Tendency, propose to you. We invite you to help us realise it.